In Residence: Creative residency programs in libraries & museums

Cultural institutions are realising the value of working with makers, artists, writers and technologists to bring new perspectives and to forge connections with the community in a variety of new and creative ways.

In this post we’re taking a look at the shorter-term, dynamic residencies that bring in a variety of creative practitioners, rather than traditional early-career librarianship residencies.

Image by WikiAfrica

Image by WikiAfrica

Writers In Residence

Having writer residences in libraries is now a well-established idea. Inspired by the artist-in-residence programs in museums and galleries, they can be much more than a quiet space for a writer to hone their craft. Writer residency programs may provide financial support to writers, but they can also be part of initiatives to bring new audiences to the library and promote collections.

A great example is Culture Hive’s project to provide space and support for an emerging writer to produce a literary work, whilst also engaging young people in the library. You can read more about it in this case study (PDF).

If you are thinking of hosting a writer at your library, take a look at this informative blog post from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, written by a writer/resident. It provides information on different types of residencies, how to prepare, and what you can expect to get out of the residency.

Maker residencies

Many public libraries and museums now offer a dedicated makerspace, where library users are supplied with a variety of resources such as computers, 3D printers, and other technologies, as well as more traditional craft and woodworking supplies.

Libraries are realising that, as well as providing space and equipment, they need to encourage people to engage with the space, and this is where the resident programmes come in. Creative practitioners can inspire users, promote resources and collections, and also create a space for invention and risk-taking.

For example, The V&A Museum of Art and Design in London supports a variety of residencies encompassing a wide range of practices. The practitioners engage with visitors to the museum and also run projects in the surrounding communities. During a residency, artist Rachel Ara made work by finding hidden narratives in the data held by the museum. Read about it here.

Manchester University’s DigiLab project was designed to help both students and staff expand their digital and technical skills and learn about new technology. The project’s two week residency within the University’s main library provided interactive workshops and demos, culminating in an event with presentations from industry experts, which you can read about on their Twitter feed.

Library of Congress runs an Innovators in Residence programme to encourage innovative and novel uses of the library’s digital collections. Read an interview with the 2020 cohort to learn more about the kind of projects they undertake.

One of the outcomes of this residency is the NewspaperNavigator tool. It really captures the importance of these kinds of collaborations in tackling issues with collections and providing new kinds of access and engagement with library resources. Find out more about it on this twitter thread.

Artefacto participated in Surrey Libraries’ Read:Code:Make initiative at Guildford Library - a collaboration between artists, technologists and makers to create installations for the library that would bring a variety of new perspectives. The process is described by Carlos Izsak on our blog and on this Medium post.

Other examples of residencies

There are loads of creative residency projects out there, and these are just some that caught our eye:

New perspectives through new collaborations

Many more libraries and museums are embracing maker-spaces and hands-on activities, and a creative residency can widen the audience for the host institution and find new ways for people to interact with the collection and resources.

Whether it’s writers holding creative writing or poetry workshops, artists and makers attracting new audiences by demonstrating their practice, or technologists encouraging experimental innovation and making for young people, collaboration is key to attracting new engagement with the library.

The ‘creatives in residence’ are the ideal people to bring new perspectives, create new kinds of services and to showcase the wealth of educational resources provided by local libraries to new audiences.

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